MASERU — Police Commissioner ‘Malejaka Letooane (pictured) was this week sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court.
The shock judgment was delivered on Tuesday after Letooane failed to appear in court to testify in the trial of Majake Ramoroke who is facing car theft charges in the Maseru Magistrates’ Court.
The state alleges that the car was stolen by Ramoroke from Bloemfontein, South Africa, on March 2 this year.
Ramoroke who is a panel beater by profession and runs a workshop in Maseru was arrested on March 29 after allegedly being caught driving the Isuzu twin-cab.
During the trial Ramoroke’s lawyer Tebalo Potsane had requested that the vehicle be presented as an exhibit before the court.
The magistrate had agreed with the request and made an order to that effect.
The police however failed to produce the vehicle, forcing the court to call the commissioner to come and testify.
Letooane was first summoned on April 2 to appear in court and explain why the vehicle could not be released.
She did not oblige.
She was also summoned on June 30 but again failed to attend.
On August 6 she was again called to the court, this time to show cause why she could not be charged with contempt of court, but still failed to make it.
Similar summons on August 13 and 14 were also not heeded.
During the hearing on August 14 Potsane argued that the commissioner had been summoned “but refused to come to the court”.
He said the commissioner had not given any explanation why she had not come to court.
And when the commissioner failed to make it again for the August 18 hearing Magistrate Tseliso Bale decided to slap her with a six-month jail sentence for contempt of court.
Bale, who seemed angry, said it was unfortunate that the commissioner had failed to attend court.
“This has indeed been an unfortunate ordeal in the legal history of our courts. It is tantamount to saying the courts are useless, voiceless and powerless,” Bale said.
“This is a serious shaking of the pillars of the rule of law and natural justice as enshrined in the constitution. This court has been cornered in a way that demerits further tolerance,” he added.
“It is hereby ordered that ‘Malejaka Letooane be convicted to prison summarily for contempt as potrayed in the records until she complies with the orders of this court.”
Public Prosecutor Mashapha Letsie is prosecuting the case.
Three prosecutors have dealt with the case since it started.
Two magistrates have also presided over the case which is likely to test the powers of the court.
Letooana is understood to be out of the country on official duty.